VAL GARDENA, Italy (Reuters) - Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal powered to his first win of the season in a close super-G race at the Saslong Classic on Friday.
Last season’s World Cup overall and super-G champion had managed only two third places so far this season after a knee injury but he bombed down the hill in northern Italy in one minute 38.35 seconds to seize victory.
Svindal, who celebrates his 27th birthday on Boxing Day, edged out Carlo Janka of Switzerland with Italy’s Patrick Staudacher thrilling the home crowd by finishing third.
“I’m absolutely delighted, not just because it’s the first win of the season but also because I enjoyed it so much,” Svindal, who missed nearly all the 2008 season through injury, told reporters.
“Last year here I was really slow. Hard work pays off in sport. It’s very fair like that.”
Janka took over at the top of the overall World Cup standings from Benjamin Raich, who came in ninth and is now second with Svindal in the Super-G table behind fellow Austrian Michael Walchhofer, who finished a disappointing 13th.
Switzerland’s Didier Cuche and last year’s winner Werner Heel were among those to crash out but there appeared to be none of the serious injuries which have so far blighted the World Cup in the lead-up to February’s Vancouver Olympics.
Despite also taking the 2007 overall World Cup crown, Svindal does not have a good record in classics and his victory at the 42nd edition of the Saslong event in German-speaking South Tyrol was an even bigger surprise.
Janka, who stunned skiing by winning the super-combined, downhill and giant slalom at Beaver Creek earlier this month, looked to have victory in the bag until Svindal’s surging run.
“It’s a big satisfaction to be on the podium after the bad results at Val d’Isere (last week) and a first podium in super-G is great,” said Janka, who will skip Saturday’s downhill to prepare for Sunday’s giant slalom in nearby Alta Badia.
“It was a pretty good run on the upper part of the course but on the lower part I hit a gate with my head and knocked my goggles to one side.”
Additional reporting by Patrick Lang: Editing by Miles Evans